What are you doing for Half Term? Are you one of those parents who prepares months ahead? Do you book tickets for ‘Matilda’, save tokens for Legoland and try to pin down your relations for a visit?
We’re the sort of family who normally realises a few days before the break that there won’t be any school for a week or two. No childcare in place. Nothing arranged apart from a couple of days away. Suddenly everyone is already busy when you try to organise a few playdates. All the babysitters are booked up or experimenting with fungi at remote music festivals.
But this time was different. Or so we thought. We were invited down to Devon to stay in my sister and brother-in-law’s new house. It’s right on the edge of an estuary and they have a boat too for paddling up and down the river. We were going for two nights and three days until just before school started again but horror of horrors, the builders who they thought would be out by now are doing a ‘Right Said Fred’ number on them. The house has no flooring – and I mean NO flooring anywhere – so we can’t go. Roughing it is one thing, but having kids balancing on joists to go for a wee in the night wasn’t going to work so they’ve called it off.
Therefore, with no other excuses, and still feeling a little on a Mary Berry contact high this morning, I fulfilled a longstanding promise to do a GBBO at home and have a chocolate chip cookie competition with eight year old. This was not the recipe with the condensed milk, so an hour later and covered in fine white powder (ran out of caster sugar and the icing sugar ‘escaped’ in a dust cloud) we waited to see what would come out of the oven …
Almost identical except my ones were a lovely light golden brown colour like the recipe had instructed. The underneath one in the photo above. The cookies that mini-me took out of the oven were browner and crispier on the outside, but for some strange reason slightly softer inside than mine. His was the one in the photo on top of mine obviously. (The chocolate can’t be seen as it was white, but managed to stay quite nutty in texture). We had the blind judging part of the competition when some friends came for tea. They liked his better. I got a text from a friend who I’d given a couple of the biscuits to earlier. She preferred his too. I don’t mind. I really don’t mind. Much. *
While we’re on the subject of food, have just popped in to Cook where I caught up with Sophie Grigson and Amelia. They still have places at their very popular Pop-Up Cookery School in Oxford where they’re demonstrating great techniques for mouthwatering dishes. So if you do find babysitting, go and sign up with them soon.
Here they are waiting for you …
Still battling my inner Pyjama Ma, I organised a grape picking session in the garden. Hundreds of them are starting to fall off the vine, turn to mush, and, in the rain create a wine lake large enough to alert the European Commission, so I found ladder, secateurs and wellies, sent them outside and less than an hour later …
Now, there’s only a week of unstructured child time to go so we’ve just booked a last minute jaunt to Bath to catch up with the Romans next week. The weather forecast looks though as if we might have to drive over fallen tree trunks on the country roads and get bogged down in remote muddy tracks. And that’s even before the hurricane and floods.
Should we cancel the booking or plough on? Staying snug in our warm home seems more and more appealing, even though it means spending large parts of next week helping to rearrange a host of plastic, studded minifigures on the carpet and getting lost in a fog of icing sugar. I suppose we could always invite our friends around to wash their feet and tread the grapes with us. Are you free to help? Don’t forget, you’ve got a whole extra hour to kill.
* Thought my baking friends might like to see this very well written article by Ruby Tandoh, finalist in GBBO.